Gasper captures Tri-State Invitational Championship

Mike Gasper, emerging from preliminary matchups versus fellow B+ players, advanced to the finals of the Tri-State Invitational Tournament on July 11-12 and bested Mike Poisler, a D/D+ player, to capture the event's Grand Champion title. The $4000-added tour finale drew 93 players in four separate classes to Comet Billiards in Parsippany, NJ.

The annual Tri-State Invitational is actually a series of six separate tournaments that crowns winners in each of the classes before pitting the best in each against each other to determine a Grand Champion. Awards and prize money are presented in each of the classes for the tournament itself and in addition, to players who've amassed season-long point totals and earned a ‘crown' as the best player in their class for the season.

Eventual winners in the B, B+, C and C+ classes were all players who concluded their in-class efforts undefeated. Gasper emerged from his B+ class to defeat Robert Kight in the B+ finals 7-3.The B finals went to Jacob Schwartz, who defeated Phil Carr 7-2. T.J. Smithers defeated Teddy Lapadula 6-3 in the C+ class, as John Egeln took top honors in the C class with a 6-2 win over Dennis Petrillo.  In both the A/A+ class and the D/D+ class tournaments, the eventual winners came from the one-loss side to capture the class title. In the A/A+ event, Danny Cintron was moved to the one-loss side by Chris Taormina 7-3 in the hot seat match, but defeated Stewart Warnock 7-3 for a second chance at the A/A+ class title. He took full advantage, defeating Taormina 7-3.

Of special note in the A/A+ event, Scott Simonetti, who ended up in third place for Player of the Year standings, joined the competition, in spite of a recent life-threatening illness that had cost him his left hand and foot. He played in the event one-handed and was applauded by all in attendance for his efforts and positive outlook. In the words of co-tour director, John Leyman, Simonetti “showed us all what true heart and spirit looked like.”

In a carbon copy of the A/A+ event, Poisler, who'd go on to be the overall event runner-up, was defeated by Yomaylin Feliz 6-3 in the hot seat match, and after defeating Pete Gallo 6-3 in the semifinals, returned to defeat Feliz 6-3 to capture the D/D+ event.
“This was tough for those players,” noted Leyman, “because the finals in each of these events was a single match for the right to advance.”

Gasper moved on to defeat both Schwartz and Cintron 7-2 to advance to the finals. Smithers took care of Egeln 6-4, but a hanging 9-ball proved to be his ultimate downfall, as Poisler advanced to the finals 7-1. With a 4-game handicap, Poisler started the finals match at 4-0; an advantage that was quickly eliminated by Gasper to knot things at 4-4. Poisler stayed competitive, but continued excellent play by Gasper finished it at 9-7.

When it was all over, the top players of the year were announced in their respective classes and awards were presented, as well, to the most improved player, the top female and the Sportsman of the Year. Top players were Daniel Cintron (A+/A), Gary Murgia (B+), Tony Eglesias (B), George Ossipovich (C+), Dave Fitzpatrick (C) and Amy Triolo (D+/D). Fitzpatrick picked up the Sportsman of the Year award as the “player who most exemplified what's good about the sport.” Rhio Anne Flores won the Ladies award, as well as sharing “The Most Improved Player” award with Cintron and Ben Sadowski. The Pro/Open class award went to Mika Immonen.

Tour directors Todd Fleitman, John Leyman and Bill Focaccia had high praise for their host, Bill Haley and his staff at Comet Billiards, noting the “professional and engaging atmosphere” throughout the entire event.

“Their generosity and support were without equal,” said Leyman. “They donated shirts to the event, along with the room and all the table time.

“There are just not enough positive and complimentary things that can be said about Bill and his establishment,” he added.

In addition, tour organizers noted the generosity of 18 sponsors, without whom, they asserted, this invitational tour finale would not have been possible.

“The sponsors went out of their way to provide this event with some great equipment and prizes,” said Leyman of Viking Cues, Fury Cues, Stealth Cues, Sterling Gaming, Ozone Billiards, Wild Eyes Creations, Pool, Jim Murnak Custom Cue Cases, Billiards Digest, Pool & Billiards, Inside Pool, Professor-Q-Ball's News, Blue Book Publications, Stroke, Human Kinetic, Amsterdam Billiards, Ron Tarr Cues and Romer's Trophies. “They are all owed a debt of gratitude for their dedication to the game and the players.

“Their efforts and generosity,” he added, “are what made the event so special and a great success.”